MORGANTOWN — High school seniors are in the home stretch — looking at graduation just months away.
But first, they need to think about the next step.
Whether it be a four-year college or university, a community college or a two-year technical school, they’ll want to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
This is the application for most of the financial aid from federal and state programs and from colleges and universities.
“Students do not know what they may be eligible to receive each year unless they submit the FAFSA,” said Nicole Solomon, assistant director of the WVU Student Financial Support & Services. “Postsecondary education is an investment in their future. If there is financial aid that could help them with that investment, we do not want them to leave it on the table.”
The 2019-’20 FAFSA was opened Oct. 1, 2018, but most colleges and universities — including WVU — have a March 1 deadline.
“Students are encouraged to submit their (FAFSA) by the priority deadline for their institution,” Solomon said. “At West Virginia University, our priority deadline is March 1. This ensures students receive the best financial aid package available to them. However, students can submit their FAFSA after March 1.
“There are also state deadlines to consider for residents of the state. For example, first-time recipients of the PROMISE Scholarship must have their FAFSA submitted to the Federal Student Aid Processing Center by March 1. For consideration for the West Virginia Higher Education Grant, the FAFSA must be received by April 15 each year.”
Solomon said for federal deadlines, students can submit applications throughout the school year in which they are applying for aid, but it’s best to focus on the priority deadline of the institution they plan to attend.
The U.S. Department of Education needs what it calls the Prior Prior Year – or PPY – income information. For this year, that’s the income information from 2017.
Solomon said information will be needed from both the student and his or her parents.
“Many students are considered dependent for federal aid purposes, which means they need both student and parent information on the FAFSA,” she said. “To complete the FAFSA, students will need their (and potentially their parents’) Social Security numbers (or alien registration numbers), birthdays, federal tax information (2017 taxes for the 2019-2020 school year), records of untaxed income, information on investments other than the home in which they live, and cash, savings, and checking account balances.”
They’ll also be asked about which schools they want to receive their FAFSA, and can list up to 10 on the application.
The FAFSA application can be found on these websites: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa; and fafsa.ed.gov.
All high school seniors who plan to pursue higher education are encouraged to file FAFSA.
“We encourage all students to complete a FAFSA for aid consideration,” Solomon said. “Often people do not submit a FAFSA because they believe they will not receive aid or their families make too much money. Income is not the only component to financial aid, and aid eligibility can fluctuate from one year to the next based on different circumstances. Even when seeking financial aid based on merit (scholarships), which are usually not based on income, students should submit a FAFSA because some scholarships require the student to have a FAFSA on file.”
Solomon added that it’s important for students to look into and apply for other aid options from the state they live in as well as private entities that offer scholarships.